Michigan All-American 7-footer Hunter Dickinson has lengthy WNY ties

The Associated PressMichigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) shoots over UCLA forward Kenneth Nwuba, left, during the second half of an Elite 8 game at Lucas Oil Stadium in this March 28 file photo Indianapolis.

One of the premier players in college basketball has Western New York bloodlines.

Hunter Dickinson, an All-American center for the No. 6 Michigan team that opens its season Wednesday night against Buffalo, is the son of two Hamburg natives who competed for local colleges.

His mother, Kathy Ryan, was a three-sport athlete of the year for Immaculata Academy in 1982 who played volleyball at Niagara (1984-85) after two years on the nationally-ranked team at Erie Community College. Father Tim Dickinson played baseball for Hilbert and Buffalo State after graduating from Frontier.

Tim and Kathy Dickinson moved in 1987 to Alexandra, Virginia, where their sons Ben, Grant and Hunter, were born and raised. A retired police captain, Tim Dickinson now teaches criminal justice at Northern Virginia Community College.

Further family ties to WNY include Tim Dickinson’s cousin, Matt Jaworski, who played football at Colgate and the 1991 season with the Indianapolis Colts. Tim Dickinson’s son, Jason Sullivan, lives in Lake View and is a teacher at Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School. Kathy Dickinson’s brother, Phil Ryan, a former offensive tackle for Canisius College, has worked at UB for much of the past 25 years, as a strength coach and now the manager of Clark Hall on the south campus.

The 7-foot-1 Hunter Dickinson averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 as a freshman starter for a Michigan team that won the Big Ten and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. He was a consensus second-team All-American, finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award and Kyle Macy Award given to the nation’s top freshman, and semifinalist for the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy.

Before becoming the all-time winningest player at powerhouse DeMatha Catholic and being coveted by most all of college basketball’s blue-bloods, Hunter Dickinson was being recruited to the Hamburg hardwood to play with his cousins, Brendan Ryan, who went on to play college lacrosse at Army West Point, and Griffin Ryan (Clarkson lacrosse).

“Hunter was 6-8 in eighth grade,” recalled Kathy Dickinson, who stands 6-1, while her husband is 6-5. “The coach from Hamburg was drooling when he saw him at graduation parties.”

“My boys are really tight with the cousins, they are like brothers,” Paul Ryan said. “They could’ve all played together at Hamburg, Frontier or St. Francis. Hunter wanted to come play at Hamburg for one year and then go back. But my sister said, ‘You’re not doing that.’”

Older brothers Ben, who played basketball for UNC-Greensboro and Division II California State, and Grant (D-II Concord) both attended UB basketball camps during summer visits.

“I wish UB had recruited Ben and Grant a little harder,” Phil Ryan said.

Alabama coach Nate Oats and assistant Bryan Hodgson identified Hunter Dickinson as a prospect when they were at UB and continued recruiting him for the Crimson Tide.

When Dickinson was deciding between high-major scholarship offers, UB coach Jim Whitesell and assistant Angres Thorpe traveled to check out some other players at DeMatha, but made sure to invite Dickinson for an on-campus visit if he needed a reason to visit family and enjoy some chicken wings.

“It was kind of a joke, but we would’ve loved for Hunter to come up for a visit,” Whitesell said. “He’s an outstanding player. Really the full package. Old school low-post guy. Really plays with great effort and toughness.”

Tim Dickinson grew up rooting for the Buffalo Bills, Sabres and Braves, and all of the Dickinson boys “are diehard Bills fans,” Kathy said.

That led to an amusing situation a few years back when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff visited the Dickinson home on a Sunday. Around 12:45 p.m., Hunter reminded his mother that the Bills and Patriots were kicking off soon, and anxiously asked how much longer the company would be staying.

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